It is hard to believe it is ten years since Labour introduced the national minimum wage. It is easy to forget just how groundbreaking its introduction was and how bitterly it was opposed by some employers and by the Conservatives including David Cameron. Last week a group of Tory MPs tried unsuccessfully to unpick the minimum wage by allowing employees to opt out of it. Labour MPs ensured these moves were defeated. You only have to look back at the pay of many employees including many working in shops, pubs and restaurants in Ilford before the minimum wage was introduced to measure its success. For the first time, employees were given a national minimum floor guaranteeing a minimum income for every worker.
From October the minimum wage for workers over 22 years old will increase from £5.73 an hour to £5.80 and from £4.77 to £4.83 for 18 to 21 year olds. Although I had hoped for a bigger increase.
I am pleased that the government resisted attempts to freeze or reduce the minimum wage and worked to find a balance that takes into account the worsening economic conditions, while protecting the UK’s low-paid and most vulnerable workers. One million workers still stand to benefit from the uprating of the minimum wage. The Labour government is also cracking down on those who exploit the system. From October using tips to make up the national minimum wage will be outlawed. People leave tips in good faith, as a mark of excellent service, and they have the right to know those tips are being used for the purpose they were given and not to make up the minimum wage.
Today the national minimum wage is a fundamental feature of the UK’s employment framework. It is a standard that protects the rights of our workers. We need it both in our current difficult times and in the better times to come.
posted 25 May 2009